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Behind the door

The woods danced with sounds I felt were more than just the rustling of trees. 

I breathed deeply, filling my lungs once again, with clean, untainted air, knowing what I would have to eventually go back to. 

The hair rose on the back of my neck.

Someone’s out there. I can feel it.

As I walked down the driveway next to King Nicolai, my mind stayed glued to Cole’s. I wanted to know that he was okay, in the state he was in, there was no chance in hell he would survive an attack of any kind. 

“You look worried, Diana,” Nicolai commented, his hand brushing mine as we walked.

I ignored the shivers it sent down my spine.

“Just keeping an eye out, my King. The enemies you warned us about could be out there. I want to make sure you and my men are safe.” I spoke, my eyes darting around us, deliberately trying not to make eye contact.

“I don’t like it when I don’t have your attention.” Nicolai half mumbled, making it seem like he was saying this more to himself than to me. 

“You always have my attention.” I responded absentmindedly, heat quickly flooding my cheeks, “As a king should expect from all his subjects.” I added quickly, yet not quick enough to stop the smug smile that was now plastered on his angular face. 

“Good to know.” 

As we reached the front steps of the grand entryway, I turned around to give my commands.

“I will watch over the front door.” I spoke to my people, “I’ll need three of you running the perimeter and two scouting the nearby woods with Cole. Report back anything unusual.”

Yes, Chief. They all responded in unison through our telepathic bond.

“I think with all this protection out here, the two of us would be able to handle the inside of the place alone. Come with me.” Nicolai gestured that I follow him.

Hesitant for a moment, not wanting to anger him. I simply nodded and followed him into the colossal entryway.

Greeting us with a thousand sparkling faces was a grand chandelier that hung directly overhead, the Grandeur staircase a picture of perfection just behind it.

“Wow,” I muttered under my breath, or so I thought. 

“Worthy of even Queens, don’t you think?” Nicolai smirked at me, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

I smiled, unable to help myself.

“This way.” he directed.

Following him up the staircase I took in as many details of my surroundings as I could. I counted the many vases filled with luscious fresh flowers that sat on every surface, filling the air with rose and orange blossoms. Upon the walls were portraits of people I could never hope to know, all in sophisticated poses their faces all in different states of boredom. At the top of the stairs was a nook, with cozy-looking seating fixtures with dimly lit lanterns and a plethora of cushions in different shapes, sizes, and textures. 

“You’re welcome to test it out,” Nicolai said, appearing beside me suddenly.

“Oh, no that’s alright, thank you. I was just looking, it’s so pretty.” I turned to walk down the hall only to find his body right next to mine, his face downturned to meet mine.

“You know,” he took a step forward, forcing me to take a step back deeper into the little alcove. “It’s one of my favorite spots in the house.” his words were soft, his eyes fierce as he stepped closer still. 

“That’s nice,” I said awkwardly, continuing to step away from him before the back of my foot had hit something solid. 

“This house is filled with mysteries. Mysteries I’d be happy to share with someone worthy.” 

His face looked down into mine, our noses almost touching until I fell backward onto the cushy velvet seat.

With his hands at either side of me, he leaned in.

“And how would you determine who is worthy?” I found my senses overwhelmed by waves of the mysterious powers he seemed to have. That nobody since the witching age had ever had. 

Power the world had not heard of in over fifty years. 

“I would have to see.” He ran a finger down the length of my cheek, his dark brown eyes boring into mine, the stubble across his cheeks shifting with a wicked smile. 

Clearing my throat, I stood up quickly, waiting to get away from the tension I didn’t want to feel. 

“We’d better get going, we wouldn’t want to stay out of the compound too long. ” I said professionally.

Nicolai smiled gently.”You wait here, I’ll be right back.”

“Yes, my King.” I bowed my head, happy for the break from his intense stare.

He walked away without a backward glance, his stride confident.

‘Ooooh,’ I heard Daniel tease in my head. 

‘Shut up. How’s Cole? Has he found anything?’ I asked my team, our telepathy faint but understandable from this distance.

‘Haven’t heard back from him yet’ He reported back.

‘We should have heard something by now’ My mind raced with concern as I tried to scan my team for Cole’s thoughts. 

Silence. 

He wasn’t supposed to have gone out so far that I couldn’t hear him anymore.

Concern bubbled inside me.

‘I’m not picking up anything from him, he must be out of range. You need to find him now!’ I commanded, the ring of it pulsing through my team until they obeyed. 

At that moment, a surge of power raced through the house, hitting me like a tidal wave.

‘Did you feel that? Was it you, Chief?’ Alexis asked.

‘No, it came from the house.’ Consumed by the effects of the raw power that had electrified the air, I stopped pacing and tried to concentrate on where it was coming from.

It tasted like iron on my tongue, felt like being showered in lead.

‘It’s his source’ I realized quickly.

‘What?’ Damien questioned.

‘His power source, what else could that have been? Our people haven’t felt power like that since the witches. He must have one!’ I rationalized.

‘The wolves and the pyres wiped out the witches centuries ago, Chief. It’s not possible.’ Alexis argued.

‘Yes, that is what we believe, what we’ve always believed. What if that’s changed?’ I argued back. ‘I’m going to see’ I declared brazenly.

‘No!’ My brethren protested.

‘If he catches you, you’re dead!’ Alexis yelled into my head, her usually soft voice now panicked, filled with fear.

‘I’ll be okay. I won’t let him catch me.’ With new resolve, I left the safety of the alcove and strode into the direction Nicolai had, my footsteps light to avoid detection.

The power still buzzed in the air, I followed the iron-like taste it seemed to produce. Careful to listen for any slight sound, I stepped slowly, deliberately down the hall and turned right, where the buzzing grew louder.

Thud!

A door; closer than I would have liked had just been shut.

‘Fuck, I need to get out of here!’

Despite this though, I risked a peek. Slowly edging to the corner I poked my head out slightly to see Nicolai standing at the door right at the end of the hallway, his head against the door as desperate banging sounded from behind it, followed by a cry of despair.

The cry rang out painfully, the sound of someone young, someone in pain. It pierced my heart listening to it.

Watching Nicolai slowly turn around, I did the same and as quietly as I could - sprinted back to the alcove. 

Mid run, just before I reached the bend the deafening sound of howling pierced my skull. The resonance of it was enough to make my knees buckle, making me double over in pain, my arms clutching my body as I felt  the sound escape me, sounds barely forming the word ‘No!’

It was a feeling I was far too familiar with, a sound I, as Alpha, heard too many times.

It was a howl of mourning. 

I was stuck, my body frozen seconds away from where Nicoli would soon find me.

I heard his steps beyond the howling.

I didn’t care.

‘Cole’

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